Be up front and straight with your clients

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Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

I don’t know about your little piece of paradise, but all over mine — on street corners, grass verges, just about anywhere — we have those obnoxious weeds growing again.

They pretty much grow to full height overnight, are normally colourful, all with smiley faces on, most have a square box with a tick in it, and nearly every single one of them is full of a certain level of false advertising — or better known in the marketing game as crap.

By now you would have guessed that the species in question is the tri-annual, local council, “vote-for-me” advertising billboard.

I would have put its full Latin name here as well, but that would have taken 4/5 of my allocated word count.

Let me give you a real example. A wannabe councillor puts up a huge yellow billboard with a full frontal of himself all over town — so far, acceptable, or it would have been if he’d had a haircut.

Puts his name up there so we know who he is and says “vote for me”. Okay, it’s not offensive yet and not overly memorable, which is a shame as that’s its whole purpose in its short lifecycle.

But then here comes his masterpiece — now comes the reasons why he wants us to tick his box and not the box either side of his.

Are you ready for this?

“I will build you a new school, better roads, get your kids into jobs and off the street, free health care for anybody who wants it, every river will be to drinkable quality, and there’s a free flea collar for every cat.”

You’re sitting in your car reading this, hoping you will get to the bottom before the lights turn green, and you’re thinking “this guy’s the bomb. He is solving all my problems — and there’ll be no more fleas. ‘Boom, take that penguin’.”

The lights change to green, but you can’t rev that engine as your world has just turned into a litre of ice cream at 2pm on the beach in mid-January. In other words, it just doesn’t look the same anymore.

The last line says “and I will reduce your rates by 25%” — and the penguin just came back with a recognisable hand gesture. 

How can this wannabe leader of the community offer all the answers to my prayers — also with a promise to get rid of fleas — and he’s going to manage it all on a quarter less income?

Where is his Diagon Alley — I want to buy a Potter stick as well!

We are businesspeople, we know simple economics. If we promise to build a house twice as quick as the builder up the road for less money, then we need to employ twice as many people and pay them less money. It’s simple — it’s never going to happen.

This comes down to that old scenario — if you over-promise and under-deliver you won’t be in business for long or, in this guy’s case, you won’t be re-elected in three years’ time. Well, I think the penguin holds all the cards with that one.

You have probably worked it out by now — I am not a huge fan of exaggerated self-promotion. But I am even less of a fan of outright make believe.

My ranting here has a reason, and that reason is a simple message — don’t run your marketing strategy the way your next team of councillors run theirs.

Make sure you under-promise and over-deliver, and be up front and straight with your clients, because they are not so dumb, and they will appreciate you for it. Which will mean dollars in your pocket.

Really, it’s not rocket science.